2011.27 | Getting it all Online

The Future of Mobile Wallets – I’ve been hearing that the NFC mobile wallet will be the new reality any time now since about 2006.  With the inertia behind mobile phones, maybe the time has finally come in 2011/2012.  Some parties have some high hopes, according to the nifty infographics after the jump.  There is also some great information on the characteristics of the offerings put forth by the mainstream processors and carriers, though Square and Paypal were strangely absent.

eGifting at Starbucks – A recent update to Starbucks’ mobile app allows users to send a virtual gift card to another Starbucks card holder, as they can add to other card holders’ balances directly from their mobile.  The plastic gift cards that we throw out have been eliminated for mutual lovers of Starbucks.   Effectively Starbucks has deployed the first practical and widely distributed ‘complete’ electronic wallet.  Card holders with the mobile app can use the app at the POS to pay, and can now pass value to another user.  I’ve actually used my Starbucks card as a virtual currency already.  Last year a friend who owed me $100 and wasn’t able to be in my locale just put a credit on my Starbucks card.  It was cheaper than Paypal, and I was going to spend it at Starbucks eventually.  Who needs Bitcoin?  We can use Starbuck$.

NFC Cash Transfers on Android  – Not to be outdone, and with uncanny timing, Paypal has announced that they have enabled wireless cash transfers from one Android phone to another via NFC.  Very cool if you have a Samsung Nexus S.  Otherwise, we’ll wait on that to find it’s way to other platforms!

Getting Offline Data Online – Online presence isn’t the best at Canadian retailers, and there are many reasons and obstacles that make that so.  A recent post on Retail Technology Blog highlights a new service from Wishpond that allows retailers to get their product data and prices online so that consumers can find the right stuff at the best prices nearby when they do their research.  My search for Asics Shoes, which can be hard to find around my neighbourhood brought up some good options.  I’ve seen some similar sites in the past, including flit.com, and like.com, which allows you to search by color, style and more.

While this is a boon for consumers to find what they are looking for, and helps retailers to get their stuff out there, it will be interesting to see what this sort of price transparency does for retailers.  I’m reminded of MySupermarket in the UK that allows shoppers to compare a full basket to find the best prices based on the big stores in their area.  This will make pricing difficult.  Look to the ability to provide individual pricing and offers to attack competition for bargain hunters in the future.  Understanding what customers want before they search for it will be the next frontier.

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